Ten Companies, Ten Growth Hacks

Do you know what a growth hacker is? Do you care? Well, you should. That is, if you are a website looking for major growth in the future. If you’re not, well, then, maybe sit this one out.

Sean Ellis, Founder and CEO of Qualaroo, first came up with the term in 2010, when he was hired by different websites to grow their visitors. He did his usual exemplary job, the website showed increased visitation and growth, and then he moved on.

. The companies now faced a new problem.

After Sean left there was nobody to take over. He received CV’s of people interested in the position, but they were all marketing based. He needed someone else, someone whose sole concentration and purpose would be focused on one thing only: growth.

So the position “growth hacker” was born.

Sean realized that marketers were important but not for startups. A startup mainly requires growth. Only then do they require a marketing team to make changes and upkeep.

Here are ten companies who employed growth hacks…and watched it pay off

1. Air BNB


AirBNB is a website where people can post listings to rent out their rooms to complete strangers (apparently, it’s a good idea). The company used a wonderful growth hack to grow their business. When users were filling in the forms, there was also an option through which they could have their listing posted on Craigslist, as well (reaches more strangers that way…). Since Craigslist is a frequently visited website, this additional post would not only get more people to view the ad, but would also produce a back link to AirBNB, which increased their search engine rankings. It sounds simple enough, but it wasn’t. Craigslist didn’t allow such incorporations. AirBNB had to reverse how Craigslist worked, and then engineer their own site to match. All this without having access to the Craigslist code base.

But it worked. AirBNB noticed a heavy growth in their traffic! Until Craigslist found out, that is, and fixed it so that AirBNB could no longer piggyback post. (At least we know it works!)


2. Twitter


Everybody knows what Twitter is. (Unless, you know, you live in cave. Though I hear there’s wifi pretty much everywhere these days). Everybody has either used it or at least heard about it. Back when it was first started; it initiated a lot of talk and gossip. People signed up, people Tweeted…once. For some reason, usage was not continuous. And that was a problem. So instead of investing in marketing teams, gimmicks, and consumer research, they conducted in-depth testing on the product itself. They concentrated on the user experience and then reconstructed the entire site according to the information they gleaned. They learned that if the users selected five to ten accounts to follow when they first signed up, they had far higher chances of returning and becoming regular users. Research reasoned it was because if the user invested time and energy into his or her account, they were more likely to follow up on their efforts. (Hashtag psychoanalysis much?) The real significance of Twitter lies in communicating and keeping up with other people; not just posting tweets randomly. Twitter made significant changes to their system in order to show users its true value, and it worked.


3. Linkedin


Linkedin gave their users an option to create public profiles. Public profiles meant that the Linkedin profile of the user will show up in search results when that person’s name is web searched. Before Linkedin, if you searched for a name, it showed many unrelated pages and you had to search through a whole lot of random pages before finding anything relevant.

But LinkedIn changed things. If you wanted to be found out, you could. You just needed to have a LinkedIn profile. They went from having two million users to having two hundred million. Now that’s growth.


4. YouTube


YouTube’s growth hack technique was simple, yet effective. When a visitor watches a YouTube video, they see an option labeled “Share”. Clicking on it reveals an “Embed” option. Once “Enbed” is clicked, they are given a small HTML code. By copying and pasting this code onto a blog or website, the video will appear on the page, exactly as it appears on YouTube and anyone can view it.

This growth hack is one of the key reasons for YouTube’s popularity. It helps spread the word about specific videos, lets more people to know about YouTube, in general, and generates backlinks to the website.


5. Buffer


If you’re still in that cave, Buffer is a social sharing tool which allows users to schedule their social media posts. They can choose different social media sites, and enter corresponding dates and times of when their updates should appear on each one.

The growth hack they employed was acquiring the Digg Digg floating share bar, which is when the social media buttons are displayed in a vertical bar that slide along the page as you travel up and down the site.


6. Hotmail


Around 20 years ago, Hotmail employed a small growth hack which did wonders for them. All emails sent by a Hotmail user contained a line at the end which read

“PS – I love you”, and contained a link back to the homepage of Hotmail. Recipients of the emails, or at least a percentage of them, clicked on the link out of curiosity and ended up starting an email account on Hotmail. (They were relieved-a new account was a lot less complicated than love). This led to a massive growth, to actually twelve million email accounts created. Later on, Microsoft purchased Hotmail for $400 million!


7. Dropbox


Drew Houston, cofounder and CEO of Dropbox, found that referrals increased sign ups for Dropbox by sixty percent. The company therefore came up with an interesting way to increase referrals. First of all, they made it very easy for their current customers to share referral links with their friends. They also started offering incentives (a little bribery can go a long way). They introduced a feature that if a current customer would refer somebody to them, they will both receive an extra 500MB of disk space, as soon as the other person officially signs up. This worked wonders. More and more people began circulating referral links to Dropbox, because they wanted free extra space. More people started signing up because they knew they’d be getting 500MB extra space, which they wouldn’t if they signed up on their own or with a different storage company.

This growth hack cost Dropbox merely 1 GB of disk space, which is much less than what they would have spent if they would have tried Google AdSense or other marketing and advertisements.


8. Facebook


Facebook , being the time consuming, addiction creating, selfie sporting site that it is, has employed many growth hacks over the years to achieve such fame. Two of them stand out, though.

One, Facebook produced ‘profile widgets’ and made them embeddable so that the users could take them and re-post them wherever they want. this gave Facebook more visibility and much higher search rankings.

According to Forbes:

“… These widgets served billions of impressions per month, which led to hundreds of millions of clicks and consequently millions of signups. By extending Facebook through the user base, Facebook was able to generate a massive number of sign ups”.

The second hack was about buying service providers in third world countries. At the time, business analysts were confused with their move. It seemed completely non-sensible to buy entire companies from half way round the world, just to get people’s email addresses. But Facebook was not buying them to get their customers’ email addresses, but rather in order to access those companies’ technology, which collected email addresses. They needed this technology to get more email subscribers for themselves. It definitely worked!


9. Quora


Started in 2010, Quora is a new social network, co-founded by two former Facebook employees. It is a questions and answers website forum where anyone can post questions and answers on virtually any topic. Users can also edit answers written by others.

The growth hack Quora used was to study what the most frequent users on Quora were up to. Intense research and experimentations were carried out to see exactly how the most active users were using the website, and then changes were made so that the other users would fall into the same kind of behavior, and become just as active.


10. PayPal


The well known merchant account company employed successful growth hacks in the following ways:

Paypal noticed that many sellers on the Ebay site were putting down Paypal as a payment option. But Paypal wasn’t an Ebay default option and the sellers had to write down the name “PayPal” in several places. So, Paypal and Ebay signed a deal which allowed the sellers to use the PayPal emblem if they were accepting payments through it. This resulted in PayPal’s emblem being displayed side by side with many other logos of established companies, such as Visa and MasterCard. This sent out the message that PayPal is a competitor of those other companies. It said they were playing in the big leagues, and this increased their value. Also, since more sellers were accepting payments through PayPal, it encouraged people to create PayPal accounts.

This impressed Ebay so much that they bought PayPal for $1.5 billion. Consider them growth hacked!


Hopefully, you all now understand what a growth hack is. Good luck and happy hacking!


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